Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Browns vs. Steelers

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Growing up halfway between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, deciding which NFL team you were going to root for meant being pulled between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers, especially when they played each other. You could get in fights with kids on your street over this one!

I think I was probably a somewhat fickle fan of each at one point or another. In the sixties, I was a Browns fan. This was the era of Jim Brown, an incredible running back who just carried tacklers down the field with him. These were the days of Lou Groza the kicker, Frank Ryan the quarterback, and Paul Warfield, the receiver.

Then these guys retired, and the Steelers rose to greatness in the seventies. Maybe there was an affinity between Youngstown and Pittsburgh over the “steeler” idea. The teams of that era with Rocky Bleier, Franco Harris, Terry Bradshaw, mean Joe Green and others epitomized a tough working-class team. We all were rooting for “one for the thumb.” And behind it all was cigar-smoking founding owner, Art Rooney, Sr.

Then the 80’s came. We were living in Cleveland when Boardman native Bernie Kosar became the Brown’s quarterback. We had to root for the Browns and endure the heartache common to Cleveland fans of all sports. The phrases “the drive” and “the fumble” still make me wince.

We were in Columbus by the time the old Browns moved out of Cleveland. That was the year I stopped taking NFL football seriously (I know how St Louis fans must be feeling right now). I will still watch a playoff or a Superbowl for the entertainment, but I have to say I don’t really care so much. These days in our city, the rivalry is a three-way, as we sit roughly in the center of a triangle of Cleveland, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Fans from all these cities have moved here.  You have to understand, being a Buckeye parent and working with a collegiate ministry at Ohio State, the team we really care about is the Buckeyes, which might be considered Columbus’s professional football team–and one that has had lots of Youngstown connections over the years, notably Jim Tressel.

So, growing up, were you a Browns or Steelers fan? Or some other team?

2 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Browns vs. Steelers

  1. My dad was from Pittsburgh and suffered through all the years when the Steelers were awful and the Browns were great. I’ll never forget taking a six pack of Iron City on the plane back to college in New York for the first Super Bowl game. Dad and I spent a lot of the game on the phone “watching” the game together as we did for decades after. He had season tickets during the late 70’s and 80’s so we enjoyed some great games in Three Rivers. I have lived in the Cleveland area for 30 years but have never waivered in my loyalty. We met our neighbors across the street the morning after we moved in when I woke up and saw their Steelers banner waving from their front porch! Our banner and theirs are up and flying this weekend. Thanks for the memories. Go Steelers!

  2. You failed horribly to capture the nature of this rivalry in Youngstown. From the day in Youngstown s you are born you either bleed Orange and Brown or Black and Yellow til the day you die and God help you if you defect from your own families team. You thrive on hating the other team and their fans. There is no room for the fickle fan you are. No true Youngstown Browns fan ever rooted for “one for the thumb” and no true Steelers fan cared Kosar was from Ytown. Your love and fervor for your team and your hatred of the other guys was as resolute and hard as the steel that came out of the Youngstown mills.

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